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Cancer Project: The News You Need

Prenatal Vitamins Protect Children from Cancer

Pregnant women who take vitamin and mineral supplements may protect their children from neuroblastoma, a nervous system cancer that rapidly spreads to the lymph nodes, lungs, and bones. Researchers with the Children’s Oncology Group in California interviewed 538 mothers of children with the disease and 504 mothers of healthy children, analyzing their vitamin intake. Daily vitamin and mineral use in the month before and also throughout pregnancy was associated with a 30 to 40 percent reduction in the risk of neuroblastoma, according to the study.

Olshan AF, Smith JC, Bondy ML, Neglia JP, Pollock BH. Maternal vitamin use and reduced risk of neuroblastoma. Epidemiology. 2002;13:575-580.

Cancer Fighters from the Kitchen

Researchers at the International Research Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Cancer reported on herbs and spices that act as cancer fighters. Specifically mentioned were oregano, which contains quercetin, a strong antioxidant that appears protective against breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancer; turmeric, containing curcumin, which slows proliferation of prostate cancer cells in the laboratory and is thought to protect against cancers of the colon, skin, and mouth; rosemary, rich in carnosol, which detoxifies substances that can initiate breast cancer and guards against skin and lung cancers; and ginger, which has been used for centuries to treat autoimmune diseases, nausea, and many other ailments.

Soy: A Safe Way to Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

As reported in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention, scientists have found soy consumption to be protective against breast cancer. Studying 406 Chinese women in Singapore, researchers found that those who ate the most soy protein were 60 percent less likely to have the dense breast tissue associated with a higher risk of breast cancer. Soy’s plant estrogens appear to lengthen a woman’s menstrual cycle, thereby minimizing estrogen exposure and lowering her risk of breast cancer.

Jakes RW, Duffy SW, Ng FC, et al. Mammographic parenchymal patterns and self-reported soy intake in Singapore Chinese women. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2002;11:608-613.

Overweight Teens at Higher Risk for Ovarian Cancer

Harvard Medical School researchers have found that women who are overweight as young adults may be more likely than slim women to develop premenopausal ovarian cancer later in life. More than 100,000 nurses participated in the investigation, in which 402 ovarian cancer cases were reported. Women who reported being overweight or obese at 18 were twice as likely to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Fairfield KM, Willett WC, Rosner BA, Manson JE, Speizer FE, Hankinson SE. Obesity, weight gain, and ovarian cancer. Obstet Gynecol. 2002;100:288-296.

High-Fat Diet May Encourage Prostate Cancer Spread

New research links a high-fat, high-calcium diet with an increase in advanced prostate cancer, according to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. This means that diet changes after cancer is diagnosed may help patients reduce their risk of recurrence.

Researchers collected information from 605 men with prostate cancer and 592 men without it. The men, all 40 to 64 years old, completed questionnaires about their dietary habits during the past 3 to 5 years. Compared with the lowest level of daily energy intake (1,322 calories), men with the highest daily energy intake (2,439 calories) were twice as likely to develop local or more advanced prostate cancer. Similar risks were found after comparing the lowest and highest intakes of fat and calcium.

Kristal AR, Cohen JH, Qu P, Stanford JL. Associations of energy, fat, calcium, and vitamin D with prostate cancer risk. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2002;11:719-725

A Meaty Diet Boosts Colon Cancer Risk

Researchers from the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Cancer Research reported new evidence confirming that meat-eating increases the risk of digestive tract cancer. In a prospective study of 500,000 people from ten European cities, those who ate more than 60 grams (about 2 ounces) of processed meat daily had an increase in bowel and stomach cancer, while another study of 39,000 people, conducted in Melbourne, Australia, found that those who ate red meat, pork, or both more than ten times a week had nearly double the risk of developing bowel cancer. These studies resonate with U.S. studies showing a three- to four-fold increase in colon cancer risk among those who eat meat daily, compared to those who consume it rarely or never.

Americans in the Dark over Obesity–Cancer Link

Just a quarter of U.S. adults are aware that excess weight is a risk factor for many forms of cancer, reports the American Institute for Cancer Research. Its study asked 1,025 people to identify disorders influenced by obesity. Nearly 90 percent correctly identified heart disease and diabetes, while only 20 percent pointed to cancer. Currently, more than 60 percent of U.S. adults are considered overweight.

Meeting of the International Research Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Cancer. July 2002.


Winter 2003
Volume XII
Number 1

Good Medicine

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